CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Benjamin Clark was thirty-two. He worked in a call centre, selling medical insurance, and lived in his childhood home with his mother. The course of his life was changed forever at the age of eighteen due to a single reckless decision made while holidaying in Spain. But so many years later, he now realizes that every new day may yield up its own sparkling jewels, whatever your circumstances, and on this Monday morning, he appeared to be in unusually high spirits as he took his fourteenth call of the morning.
“Certainly madam, may I begin by taking some details?”
“Oh, please don’t call me ‘madam’; it makes me feel so old.”
“But you sound so young; I can hear the sparkle of youth in your voice; you shouldn’t be concerned about age.”
“I’m blushing now; it’s a good job you can’t see me.”
But Benjamin could see her. Every time he heard a voice on the phone, he pictured its owner, which was perhaps his way of countering the stress of his job, since the images were usually comical. But while this was helpful to him, it constantly irritated Jennifer, who sat beside him.
“What are you giggling at now?” she would ask.
“Nothing,” he would say, barely able to talk through his snigger.
After another ten minutes of provocation she might add: “Tell me! Tell me! you’re driving me mad!”
“It’s nothing,” he would say; “just a funny thought.”
With offensive callers, Benjamin usually pictured them as animals. With the caller before the present one, he pictured him as a cat whose coat was completely shaved off, and wore the drooping belly of a fat, middle-aged heavy drinker and also a tattoo upon each shoulder—the left one a mouse and the right one a kipper. And after a further abrasive comment from the caller, in Benjamin’s mind the cat became toothless and walked with a severe limp. As the caller spoke, Benjamin watched the pitiful cat prancing before the local feline beauties, proudly displaying its tattoos while attempting to seduce them with its toothless smile. And each time the caller’s speech paused, Benjamin saw the cat stumble to the ground, only to pick itself up again and resume its proud prance as the caller continued.
“Yes, sir,” said Benjamin, smirking.
After he finished the call, Jennifer said, “I don’t know how you do it,” shaking her head in disbelief.
But then came the present caller, Melanie Phenix, who was different. From the moment he heard her voice, its tone seemed to touch some part of him he was previously unaware of. She simply said her name and he felt a tremor at his core, as of a mild earthquake in a land that was usually unshakable. And from that moment, she had his attention.
“I’m calling about my insurance,” she told him, and somehow these words conjured up a soft face with a peach-like glow and golden wavy hair hanging about her as the sweet blossoms of delicate flowers might hang at the height of a sunny Spring day (though he had never in his life witnessed such a thing).
“Yes, that’s right, ‘Phenix’,” she told him.
Benjamin could feel the warmth of that Spring sun within him. “And what is your occupation?” he asked.
Back in the living room, Lily’s solitary goldfish, Matilda Smithe, was hovering in the goldfish bowl.
She hovered in that same spot for the past two hours, remaining motionless—except, that is, for the occasional flap of a fin, which was needed to counteract the slight propulsive effect of the steady trickle of water passing through her gills. And this she only did because it was absolutely necessary, it being a well‑known fact (among goldfish, that is) that you need to counteract this slight propulsive effect with an occasional fin‑flap in order to prevent your nose from eventually bumping into the side of the bowl.
She slowly gazed round the bowl at the usual sight of the bowl’s emptiness. She wondered why there were no other fish in her company. Then it occurred to her that her life seemed pointless, since there were no other fish for her to talk to or be with. She felt her usual aching desire to be with other fish, which would have made her life worthwhile; and without that, her life seemed to consist of this terrible emptiness—like living at the centre of an impenetrable barrier which it was impossible for her to pass through, or for others to enter.
While feeling this, she was gazing down at the living‑room carpet when she saw something that filled her with fear; she saw a vision of death in the living room. And this vision was the sight of herself lying there on the carpet. The vision shouted at her—Do it, do it—filling her with dread. Then she realized why she found the vision so alarming. It was because she was about to obey it; she really was! And that alarming voice continued shouting—Do it, do it.
She looked up to the surface of the water—Do it, do it—but kept on merely watching the surface. She glanced down to the carpet, then heard that vision’s voice again. But it seemed that some other voice within her was preventing her from obeying it. The vision’s voice was still shouting—Do it—but its voice was no longer alarming to her, for she now knew she was not going to obey it; she could not; that other voice within her was too strong—a voice that seemed to be commanding her to go on living, whatever happened; just go on living.
The vision of death faded and she was left gazing down at the empty carpet. She continued to simply hover—but not forgetting to occasionally flap one of her fins.

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